despite recent reports by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, the Little Hoover Commission and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice calling for the system's closure and the reallocation of its $322.7 million budget to other spending priorities, the state Legislature has taken no action.Regular readers will recall this proposal sounds amazingly similar to Texas state Sen. John Whitmire's call to "abolish" the Texas Youth Commission and downstream their placement in secure lockups to counties, who would get grants for the youth so diverted. Texas started down that road and has closed several facilities, shuttering two more on August 1. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear testimony on Texas' diversion grants to counties at an upcoming meeting on April 29. TYC's costs per youth are about $99,000 per year according to the Legislativ Budget Board,
Maintaining the five facilities is a waste of precious resources. Because the system is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Prison Law Office over the horrific conditions within the state's youth correctional facilities and the consent decree that resulted from it, the state spends an average of $228,715 a year for each of the 1,400 youths in its custody. ...
Retaining the state-run youth corrections system is no longer necessary because the requisite institutional facilities now exist at the county level. Over the last 12 years the state and federal governments invested millions of dollars to expand and modernize county juvenile justice facilities across the state. According to the reports from the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, California counties now have 2,000 to 3,000 surplus high- and medium-security institutional beds that could more than absorb the majority of the youths remaining in state facilities at less than half the cost.
Another item from California recently caught my eye. Candidates in California elections are calling for cutting state jobs to reduce the budget. But it turns out the largest groups of employees are prison guards and university staff. Says CalCoastNews.com: "Bottom line: Any candidate who claims to have a plan on cutting state jobs will have to address the impact on education and Corrections."
Texas has the same problem: Prison staff make up 16.9% of all state employees, which according to the Pew Center on the States (pdf, p. 15) is the highest percentage in the country.